Global Policy Forum

New Government May Neglect Development Aid


By Julio Godoy

October 29, 2009

Concerns have risen with the inauguration of the new government that Germany will cut back on its commitments on international development.

Misgivings have arisen over the appointment of Dirk Niebel from the Free Democratic Party (FDP) as the minister for economic cooperation and development.

He said earlier this year that the ministry should be dissolved and merged with the foreign office. On another occasion Niebel, a former bureaucrat and soldier for eight years, said the 100 million euros Germany allocated as emergency aid for underdeveloped countries would be better spent on getting teachers for German schools.

Niebel clarified after taking over as minister that he would not dissolve the ministry. "I am going to be an apprentice in office," he said.

But concerns have not gone away, primarily because of declared FDP policy. In its 2009 "liberal savings book", a policy document, the party has asked for a cut of 531 million euros from the international development budget, about a 10 percent cut.

Sascha Raabe, international cooperation expert with the opposition Social Democratic Party, called Niebel the "minister for liquidation", a play on words in German where 'development' (entwicklung) sounds similar to 'liquidation' (abwicklung). "Niebel is a miscast," Raabe added.

Claudia Warning, president of the German federation of non-governmental organizations (VENRO) that are active in development cooperation, urged the FDP to "coherently lead (the foreign and the international cooperation ministries) based on the principle of fighting poverty" in the poorest countries of the world.

"This should be a guiding principle also for the foreign ministry," Warning said. Guido Westerwelle, FDP leader, is the new German foreign minister.

Warning said the new government program puts too much emphasis on "promoting German economic interests abroad, even in decisions concerning economic cooperation." The ministry's task must be to "contribute to the international fight against poverty, and not the promotion of German businesses' interests," Warning told IPS.

Warning also said she was missing "ambition" in the new government's programs in international cooperation. "The government simply does not refer to all international agreements and time frameworks Germany ratified in the past, of increasing its official development aid."

VENRO represents 120 NGOs active in international cooperation and in promoting humanitarian aid.

Raabe pointed out that the new government plan "does not make any reference to the original time framework to fulfill the pledges Germany recently ratified concerning international development cooperation."

Raabe and Warning were referring to two international agreements, in which Germany pledged to raise official development aid to 0.51 percent of the country's gross domestic product by the year 2010, and to 0.7 percent by 2015.

"By so doing, Germany says farewell to the international community's concrete objectives of increasing development aid within the short and medium term," Raabe added. "Given the growing poverty in the less developed countries of the world, this is a catastrophic decision."

Raabe also criticized a policy statement by the new coalition government, which calls for further liberalization of markets in developing countries. "Such a call is a step backwards to the radical market liberalism of the 1990s, which are responsible for hunger and poverty and destruction of agriculture in many developing countries."

Small farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America cannot compete against the highly subsidized agricultural goods from Europe and the US, Raabe added.




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